Seniors lift Struthers into district
By BRANDON JUDEH
Tournament time brings out plenty of emotions for coaches and their players and Struthers High girls basketball coach John Grandy is no different as his team defeated Streetsboro 66-52 in the Division II sectional championship.
He and his five seniors, Ashleigh Ryan, McKenna Shives, Brittaney Zupko, Ashley Kane and Halle Smrek, know any game could be their last.
“Recently at practice I have been going up to each senior and telling them ‘I’m really going to miss you,’” said Grandy. “This is a special group of seniors and I’m so proud of them.”
Much like their coach, the seniors have been feeling sentimental lately.
“We play every practice and every game like it’s going to be our last and tonight was for sure our final home game ever here at the field house,” Shives said. “People always tell high school kids their freshman year to enjoy it because it goes by quick. I’m starting to realize that now.”
“We were lucky; we got to play one last home game,” she said. “But we all realize that this is the final season that we all get to play together and we have been playing together since fifth grade.”
The Wildcats (18-5) dominated from the start, opening on a 13-3 run. They held an 11-point lead after the first quarter thanks in large part to Shives’ three 3-pointers.
The 1,000-point scorer finished the game with 19 points, seven steals, five boards and three assists.
Streetsboro did not go quietly as a third-quarter rally cut the Wildcat lead to four.
“We weren’t getting as many shots off in the third quarter and struggled on defense a bit, but all we had to do is get back into our groove,” said Ryan.
Things got even worse in the middle of the quarter when senior and top defender Smrek went down with an apparent ankle sprain.
“She’s going to get some X-rays done tomorrow, so we are hoping for the best,” Grandy said.
But in the end it was too much of Shives and Ryan as they willed their team down the stretch and helped carry them into Monday’s district semifinal against Lakeview at Fitch High School.
“We only go eight deep, but I have to say I’m so proud of our bench tonight,” Grandy said. “Preshus Brown and Caitlin and Holly Kane all did a fantastic job of contributing, I can’t express enough how huge they were for us tonight. We are very excited to return to districts for the seventh time in eight years.”
Ryan led all scorers with 26 points and Caitlin Kane added nine points.
Marra Woods scored 13 for Streetsboro (15-8), which set a school record for victories.